There is a constant drumbeat surrounding Jordan Reed in fantasy football circles. “When he’s healthy, he’s a beast. When he’s healthy, he’s a monster. When he’s healthy when he’s healthy when he’s healthy.” Catch the issue there? Jordan Reed is never healthy. There’s the second issue there, as well. When he’s healthy, he’s not a beast. He’s subjected to the same vagaries of the tight end position, yet his overwhelming talent blinds us to these facts.
First, there’s the issue of Jordan Reed’s ADP. Per FantasyPros, he is currently the #2 tight end by ADP, going at pick #38. The consensus on Reed is that he should go after Gronk and before Travis Kelce because his per-game production will be incredible. Fantasy football players are going into the draft and spending a top-five pick on a player who has missed an average of 4.25 games a season every year he’s been in the league. Jordan Reed’s fragility makes Dennis Pitta feel sorry for him. The guy has seven concussions going back to college and played decoy last season with a shoulder injury that had him in your lineups, but out of usefulness. The chanting hoards say, “when Jordan Reed is healthy, he will be great.” But he’s never healthy and spending a top-four round pick on a tight end, one of the most fungible positions in fantasy football, on a player who won’t be around at least a quarter of the year, is insane.
There’s also the drumbeat of “when he is healthy, he’s a beast.” Well, yes and no. When you look at the bulk of Reed’s career work, he has a good amount of things that pop out. He’s had more multi-TD games than all but only a few players over the last few years with six such games. Four came in 2015, and account for the majority of his useful games over his career. Reed had six double-digit point games in 2015, but he missed the game or failed to score even five fantasy points in the same number of games. This was his “breakout” year, which everyone remembers because he strung together four outstanding games in a row. This doesn’t even get into his disastrous and injury-riddled 2016 campaign.
In 2016, Reed did Jordan Reed things: get injured frequently. He suffered a head injury and a shoulder injury that cost him his requisite quarter of the season. The shoulder injury also left him a hobbled decoy for multiple games, and his sub-five point games (through injury or ineffectiveness) increased from six to seven in 2016. His double-digit games shrunk to three.
Tight End is extremely fungible, and trying to pretend like that doesn’t apply to a handful of tight ends is fallacious. Trying to apply that to Jordan Reed is doubly so. When he plays, his up-and-down nature (which is symptomatic of the position as a whole) finds him on average as TE13. This is the same as Travis Kelce, who is a favored horse to finish as the #2 TE this year. Kelce is also TE13 on average. This speaks more to the position, that even the #2 and #3 draftees at the position have weeks where they fall behind most of the pack. Using a fourth rounder on Reed is ignoring this fact, and also ignoring that he misses a quarter of the games a year. Go ahead and get a different position here, and feel free to ignore tight end altogether for a while. If you do insist on taking a tight end in the fourth round, go ahead and snag Kelce. Historically he’s the same as Reed in more games, and he has the better target share situation going into 2017.